Gospel Coalition Conference – Observation #2

Tim Keller is one of my newer favorite writers and speakers.  He has a rare gift of being able to engage our culture with a staunchly biblical apologetic.  I appreciate someone who serves in the middle of Manhatten, exercises broad ministries of mercy to the city, and maintains a strong biblical orthodoxy.

Keller was the first speaker for The Gospel Coalition Conference.  Here are my basic notes from his talk on engaging idols in the culture:

1) Discerning Idols

a. Look around the city and see what the idols are (look at the University, etc)

b. Paul went into the marketplace to identify and confront the idols of the culture (agera – cultural center). This would include political centers as well as social centers (commerce & theater)

c. David Clarkson (Puritan – 2 vol. work)

d. Ezek.16

e. Jer.2:3

f. When you look at any created thing to give you what only God can give you is idolatry (anything so central to your life that you cannot have a meaningful life)

2) Exposing Idols

a. Paul knew how to expose idols

b. Idols demands salvation by works.

c. 3 kinds of idols you have to expose

i. Personal (relying on self-righteousness)

1. Money

a. For instance, worship at the altar of business demands child-sacrifice (give up your family)

2. Romance

a. If you actually look to this other person for personal worth and value due to the person’s love, this is an idol

b. Leads to actions even beyond previous set boundaries

3. Children can be idols. If you find greatest worth through the children, they have become an idol.

ii. Religious

1. Those who worship religious idols believe they are very devoted to God. They are not looking to God alone for salvation. Rather, they are looking to truth, gifts and morality as salvific

2. I’m okay because I believe right or because of Christ’s finished work?

3. If you’re always sarcastic, mocking, disdainful you are exposed as a doctrinal Pharisee – there is a sense of doctrinal superiority in this and this is the person who makes an idol out of truth.

4. Idol out of gifts is also evident. The mistaking of spiritual gifts for spiritual fruit (preaching, teaching, leading, etc.. replacing the fruit of the spirit, etc.) – Justification by ministry, that there are results and the people conspire because they enjoy the “success”. Being a great preacher can become an idol.

5. Typical for Christians to say that the reason God loves us is because of all that we are doing and what we are not doing. Taking morality to a point of idolatry. To trust in morality to win God’s approval is idolatry.

6. All of these things must be exposed and fought.

iii. Cultural

1. Example: The enlightenment (exaltation of reason)

2. The gods will always let you down. The social order will be brought down by these gods.

3. Family can be an idol. Family above all else.

4. Western culture and individualism is idolatrous. No one should ever say anything that their beliefs are wrong.

5. Politics are idolatry. We can see shifts all along the way. Too big government, liberal, conservative, free society, capitalism, etc – what it all shows is that original sin is strong and intact. It’s as if people people that there is a savior in a form of government (comprised of men) instead of the God who establishes said governments

3) Destroying Idols

a. When the idols are opposed, it’s dangerous. Idols are violent. The biblical writers are ambivalent about whether idols are something or nothing. No power, yet enormous power.

b. Paul risked his life to challenge the idols and principalities

c. Christ challenged it and it cost Him his life (Col.2:15) – when Satan and his principalities brought their rage against Christ, He defeated them by willfully bowing His head into their rage and overcoming it all.

d. “Idolatry” written in 1992

e. Objectively He has overcome the power of idols on the cross

f. Subjectively He has overcome – He has called me by His own glory and excellence. My affections are overwhelmed for Him in opposition to my earthly idols


UBC is uniquely located in a cultural center that is very diverse because of our downtown location and proximity to the University of Arkansas.  There are many idols around and within for us to identify and destroy with the gospel.  One thing that became very clear to me is that UBC is on the road to being Christ / Cross / Gospel – Centered and that the natural outflow of that will be to mercifully and faithfully engage and destroy idols within while we seek to see others rescued from their idols and treasuring Christ, finding joy in HIm alone.

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